Most clubs have two different types of technical inspections that your racecar and safety gear need to pass. The purpose of the first inspection is to obtain a logbook for the vehicle. That logbook will belong to the vehicle for the rest of its life, even if there is a change in ownership. Then there is the annual tech inspection. In actuality, both types are similar in nature, but the inspection to obtain a logbook is more intensive and the car will be looked at in greater detail. Since both inspections review many of the same things, I recommend that you treat all inspections as if they were to obtain your logbook. This will force you to fully inspect the racecar to ensure that it at least meets the minimum safety requirements.
If you have either built or bought a racecar that does not have a logbook, it will be necessary to have the racecar inspected to obtain one. Most clubs will host technical inspections at various sites prior to the beginning of the race season. If you are thinking about bringing the car with you to the drivers’ school or race to obtain a logbook, I strongly recommend that you think again. Going through the inspection to obtain a logbook is stressful enough, so why add that stress to an event? This process also takes time to complete; if you bring the car to the event, who knows if it will be completed in time for you to participate in it. If the car already has a logbook and you “only” need the annual technical inspection, I still advise that you have it completed before going to an event. If the car is being inspected to obtain a new logbook, it does not also need an annual tech inspection that year. I have seen several people who thought they would zip through the line and have plenty of time before their session, only to be delayed for one reason or another. While some drivers’ schools offer inspections the night before, what happens if something needs to be fixed before the inspector issues the logbook? Assuming that you are even able to get the issue resolved (and you know what is said about making assumptions), you are causing yourself unnecessary grief. Waiting until the event may cause you to miss the entire event. Have you gotten the subtle hint that I feel it is important to have this completed prior to the event?
Another possible option if you are unable to attend one of the pre-season technical inspection events is to ask if one of the inspectors living in your general area would be willing to perform the inspection at another time. Ask if they would be willing to have you bring the car to them. If you need a logbook issued, specify this up-front so that the inspector does not think that all you need is for the racecar to pass an annual technical inspection. The logbook process is more involved and requires the inspector to have a blank logbook available. Many clubs also require an inspector to have a higher level certification and training before being allowed to issue new logbooks compared to completing annual inspections for racecars that already have a valid logbook. It would be a nice gesture for you to bring the inspector a bottle of wine, a 12 pack of beer, or some other token of appreciation for taking the time to help you. Oh, but give the beer or other item to the inspector after the inspection; otherwise, it will appear as if you are trying to bribe them. Geez, now I must sound like one of your parents.
What is the purpose of a racecar’s logbook? Safety. To obtain a logbook, the racecar must meet minimum safety requirements as outlined in the club’s rulebook. In addition to the items that are reviewed for high performance events, inspectors will also usually review the following items:
* Every club that I am aware of requires inspection holes to be drilled in the roll cage. Instead of pre-drilling the holes and subsequently finding out they were drilled in the wrong places, bring a cordless drill with various drill bits to the inspection with you. Ask the inspectors where they would like you to drill the holes.
This list and the items you need for HPDE tech inspections cover the majority of the items that will be reviewed in a club inspection. However, it is extremely important that you thoroughly read the club’s rulebook to ensure the car meets its requirements. Even if the club does not require you to bring a copy of the rulebook to the inspection, bring it with you anyway. You owe it to yourself to know the rules and where they are defined in the rulebook. Keep in mind that inspectors are responsible for reviewing many different types of racecars in multiple race categories and each one has its own nuances. An easily recognizable example is the differences between open-wheel racecars and closed-wheel racecars. Whether inspectors admit it or not, it is not possible for them to memorize all requirements specific to every type of car they may inspect. During the process remember that the inspectors are almost always volunteers who don’t take pleasure in harassing you. The purpose of the inspection process is to help make you and other participants safer. In the above list, you will notice that go-fast parts are not included. Why? The answer is because these items are not safety-related, and therefore they are not relevant to this process. This is yet another reason why you first need to focus on the required safety items.
The day I had my racecar inspected to obtain its logbook was very nerve wracking. I had spent many months building the car, reading and re-reading the rulebook. I kept thinking that maybe there was something I missed. My turn for the inspection came, and overall things went very smoothly. If you take the time to prepare your car properly, there is no reason to be overly concerned with the process. Inspectors realize that you have put a significant amount of time and energy into the car. While inspectors are not “out to get” anyone, you should take as much control of the inspection as possible. What I mean is, show them your car, don’t just stand around waiting for the inspector to ask you questions. Before the inspection begins, put the window net up. Bring the inspector over to that area and demonstrate how easy it is to take down. (It is not important how quickly you can put the window net up, just how quickly it will come down.) Point out to them where your emergency kill switch is located. Continue this “tour” of the car and then show them your personal safety gear including the driver’s suit. What you really want to do is guide them through all of the safety items on the racecar. If the inspector questions any of these items, look at the rulebook for clarification. Don’t be afraid to nicely show the inspector where the rulebook states that what you have meets the rule’s criteria. There is nothing wrong with proving you’ve done your homework.
Clean cars and organized gear tech quickly.
What does a clean car, a nicely folded drivers suit, and well-organized gear have to do with its safety? Nothing, directly. What it does show is that you have prepared for this and take it seriously. While you don’t need a fancy paint job, your car shouldn’t be very dirty. Take the time to vacuum the interior, ensure that the engine bay is reasonably clean. Your personal safety gear is well-organized and folded.
How much do these technical inspections cost? The charge for inspections is usually very minimal (most often less then $40) if there is any cost at all. If you will be racing with multiple clubs, check with them to determine what the requirements are for annual technical inspections and logbooks. Often times smaller clubs will accept an SCCA or NASA logbook to satisfy their requirements, and thus it may not be necessary to obtain a logbook and an annual technical inspection from each club you race with.